Hoop Nightmares in Costa Mesa

Hoop Nightmares in Costa Mesa

A U.S. Army National Guard recruiter who previously served a dozen years in the Marines spends his spare time running a recreational basketball league that is holding its championship tournament this week on the far west side of Santa Ana, almost in Fountain Valley.

Last summer, the Sarge was close to a deal that would have had his tourney taking place in Costa Mesa. He was going to pay the cash-strapped city $39,000 for seldom-used courts for a few hours on Sundays for a few weeks. But he finally walked away, frustrated, because every time he addressed a city concern, the city came up with a new one. It's not difficult to figure out why.

The military man's name is Rigoberto Bautista. His league was formed in the Latino-majority city of Santa Ana. His organization's name on the original application was the Aztec Basketball League.

And the biggest clue of all: he was dealing with Costa Mesa.

A Bubbling Cauldron blogger Geoff West caught up with Bautista Wednesday after Daily Pilot columnist (and dear friend of Clockwork) Steve Smith, in West's words, "ripped the scab off the dormant issue."

Bautista was only looking for a temporary home for his league while the Santa Ana gym it had been using was under repairs. He discovered the Downtown Recreation Center basketball courts in Costa Mesa were generally empty on Sundays, so he went to the city recreation department confident he had a win-win proposal.

The deal seemed headed for approval at a city recreation commission meeting last May. But then, a man West referred to as "a man who is known internationally for his racist views, our old buddy, The Mouth From Mesa North," stood before the panel "and raised the specter of marauding ex-cons and child molesters terrorizing the Downtown Recreation Center."

Near as Clockwork can tell, "The Mouth" is attached to H. Martin Martin H. Millard, a fixture in Weekly and Southern Poverty Law Center reporting on notorious hate mongers.

That so changed the mood of what had been a routine hearing that when chairman Kurt Galitski made a motion to approve the proposal, the other four commissioners remained stone silent, killing the motion for lack of a second.

But news of the non-action--and loss of nearly $40,000 in much-needed dollars for city coffers--produced such an outcry that vice chairman Mike Brumbaugh brought the issue back at a subsquent meeting. This time, the proposal was approved provisionally while recreation staff was directed to see if others might bid for the court time.

Councilman Eric Bever then brought the league to the attention of the City Council in July. His concern? Players might be placing undo wear and tear on the basketball court.

"It's hard to imagine a more laughable, bogus reason, even from Bever," writes West, referring to the councilman's coziness with notorious hate mongers like Millard. (Bever, Mayor Allan Mansoor and Councilman Gary Monahan voted years ago to appoint Millard to the city redevelopment committee.)

Bever also wanted a higher rate from the league, even though Bautista was paying the city's highest rental fee.

Mansoor, meanwhile, had a problem with the Aztec Basketball League name. He said he feared residents would be confused into thinking it was a Latino-only operation. He got Bautista to promise to change the name to the "Costa Mesa Sunday Basketball League."

"At every turn city officials threw up barriers in front of Sgt. Bautista--a decorated Marine and Army veteran and recruiter--and every time he met their unreasonable demands with dignity and compliance," West writes. "They may be no better example of how the racial agenda of one man in this city has affected the way our elected leaders conduct themselves, as they march to his tune and cost our city money and stature among the community of cities in our region."

A frustrated Bautista was welcomed with open arms by Santa Ana recreation officials, and the Aztec Basketball League quietly moved to the westside court.

Smith reopened the wound because he'd recently visited the Downtown Recreation Center and discovered a youth league had rented the hoops courts for eight weeks.

The tab: $12,106.

"[B]ut the net revenue for the city is zero," informs Smith.

His column certainly fired up West:

"Shame on our city for its treatment of Bautista and his league. Shame on Mayor Mansoor and his cronies for allowing their personal racial bias to deprive the city of almost $40,000 in much-needed revenue. And, shame on them for demonstrating to the world once again that the City of Costa Mesa is a bastion of intolerance, where the agenda is driven by one man--an internationally notorious racist. Shame on them all and shame on us, the voters of this city, for electing people of such low character to public office."

Smith's first line best summed up the situation:

"Let's hope the American Civil Liberties Union does not read this column."


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